PMB – Manufacturing Industry

Monday, 22 May 2023

Mr PITT: I’m about to give you a hot tip, Madam Deputy Speaker Chesters. No matter who is in government, whether it’s Labor or whether it’s the coalition, and no matter what the situation is—whether it’s a hung parliament or whether there are difficulties in the Senate—the fundamentals of business simply do not change. They don’t change. It doesn’t matter whether you are in manufacturing, agriculture, resources or anything else, the fundamentals are these: confidence—that is everything—affordable electricity and gas; affordable and reliable energy; the ability to actually secure critical staff that you need to make your business run; and a willingness to put your house on the line and risk everything to be in small business, make a difference and actually deliver something.

Right now this Labor government is destroying every single section that is needed for business to be successful. They have intervened in the electricity market. I’ve never seen anything like this. It is quite extraordinary. There is a cap on gas prices. There is a cap on people who have invested tens of billions of dollars in this country to develop an industry that simply didn’t exist, and the Labor government has moved the goalposts. Not only has it moved them; it has thrown them into the ocean. You have the Japanese ambassador saying that in Australia there is now sovereign risk for investment. That is absolutely unheard of. We saw in media reports in the last 24 hours that the Prime Minister had to meet with the Japanese Prime Minister to try to ensure that Japan were confident that our resources would continue to flow under the existing contracts that they’ve had for decades. For decades in this country, they have been delivering jobs and investments for Australians.

Throughout the COVID period we managed to ensure that the reputation of this country continued as a reliable supplier for energy and resources for places like Japan. Without Australia’s coal, energy and gas, they would’ve closed down. It would’ve been absolute anarchy. It is the same in South Korea and a lot of our other key markets. If you want to have manufacturing in this country, then, quite simply, these are the things that matter. Who in their right mind will invest in this country, knowing that a Labor government will pull the rug out from under them after they’ve invested, after they’ve put significant money on the line, after they’ve come to this nation and actually built an industry that we need.

What we have seen is the Minister for the Environment and Water knock out two coal mines and then celebrate. Admittedly, one was approved in the last seven days, but it’s one which is for coking coal, and you do need to make steel. That’s a fundamental if you want to be in manufacturing.

What we see are interventions around gas prices and electricity prices, and we see moving policies. All of these things absolutely destroy confidence. Then comes the Safeguard Mechanism, another job-destroying policy from this Labor government for which there is no real solution. If you are an industry in the top 200, how on earth do you offset your carbon emissions for an existing facility if you cannot invest to make any changes? There was a report from the CSIRO late in the year last year which outlined very clearly what the existing protocols could potentially deliver inside offsets for carbon farming. You could shift 100 million hectares of Australian agriculture and you wouldn’t touch the sides of what is required by the Safeguard Mechanism under this Labor government. There’s only 420 million hectares, and guess what? It produces food. Now, we kind of need food. We are a big exporter. Some $70 billion to $80 billion is the target I’d expect this year for agricultural exports. It is absolutely essential not only to Australia’s productivity; it’s also part of our psyche. We’re an agricultural country. The idea that you would shift hundreds of millions of hectares of ag production to carbon offsets and let them go to weeds and feral pigs and dogs and have no employment is the absolute opposite of what a government should be doing.

You cannot simply wander around telling international investors that these policies are fantastic, that they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that they can’t actually be delivered. The only way that the CSIRO identified that had any potential was carbon capture and storage, and guess what? The federal Labor government has rubbed that out. That’s not something that Minister Bowen wants to support, yet it could produce gigatonnes of storage, according to the CSIRO. That actually works. Imagine that—a policy that works! So what we continue to see when it comes to manufacturing is a tax on confidence. It’s a tax on policy stability. It’s a tax on the ability to invest and actually secure funding. These are all the things that every business needs to be successful—in fact, to start and to survive and to remain.

Now, the people to whom I talk may well want to be out there employing more people, but they simply do not have the confidence to do that, and under this Labor government I expect that will continue, because they cannot pay their bills, particularly their power bills.

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